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Report from Institute of Our Lady of Mercy (UK)

May 18, 2017

This activity/involvement is mostly undertaken in or through women@thewell (w@w), which whilst being an independent charity was initially seed funded by IOLM and continues to get considerable support from them both as direct financial funding and through the rent free use and upkeep the building, additionally IOLM are involved at all levels in the mission i.e. governance/trusteeship, staffing (I am CEO), volunteers and commitment to providing an onsite resident community.

Women@theWell Update:
Services Update
Exiting Coordinator – 3 year funding has been secured and role starts on 6th June.
• Newly established Outreach and Support Team continues to go well, the team have been in contact with 103 women since the start of the project in July 2016 (Activities began in September 2016). Since the publishing of NRM for 2016, showing Albanians as highest number sexually exploited women entering NRM in 2016 we are seeking funding for an Albanian Outreach Worker.
• We are hoping to have secured funding for a pan London specialist Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) to explore fully the use of this model of work in relation to women experiencing violence through their involvement in prostitution.

Positive Outcome for Trafficked Woman:
In summer 2015 a Romanian woman, refereed to here as ‘M’, was brought to the UK by an organised network of traffickers. She believed she would be working in a restaurant to send money back to her family. On arrival she was forced into prostitution and kept against her will.
Background - M made contact through Facebook with a group of individuals looking for women to come to the UK to work in a restaurant. On arrival in the UK her passport, mobile phone, money and valuables were taken from her and she was accommodated in a run-down property in London with other women. From here she was forced to engage in street prostitution and required to hand over all money received to the group holding her against her will.
After several weeks she asked someone for help. He contacted us, and we advised him to bring her to us as soon as possible. She was very frightened and reluctant to talk about her situation in detail. Her knowledge of English was very poor so our support worker made use of translation services to try and help her to tell us her story.
We quickly got her to switch her mobile phone off and ensure that the individuals she had previously been in touch with through Facebook would be unable to see her profile. We encouraged her to come with us to the police where she provided information that allowed the police to trace the group responsible for trafficking her.
That night we took her to a safe house and the next day we managed to get her out of London for her to begin her rehabilitation. She was supported to disclose her story to the Metropolitan Police. The criminal case against her traffickers was pursued and has resulted in a 14 year conviction for two of the traffickers. This is the first conviction under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and more details can be found here

Research Proposals for Which We Are Currently Seeking Funding:
1) What is effective support for women involved, or at risk of involvement, in prostitution?
From our experience as a frontline service provider, that of our international colleagues, survivors and the findings of the work carried out by academic colleagues, we are keen to acquire funding to undertake a piece of significant international research to establish the constituents of effective support for women involved, or at risk of involvement, in prostitution. With the view that this essential research would inform the development of a model of support, which can be disseminated internationally via our established global networks, supported by effective and responsive accredited and non-accredited training. The women we meet in our services are global citizens, not only have the experienced multiple challenges and the effects of trauma, but in addition they can often be far from a place they may call home. We know from emerging findings of a current inquiry and that of other research, that women make decisions and choices on how they will continue to access services by virtue of the way that they are met by helping services. It is our intention to ensure that women who are seeking help are met in a way that gives them the confidence to continue working alongside services, and receive the support to effect positive changes in their lives. This research will enabled a detailed understanding of what this should look like, and will inform the development of an effective model of support.
2) How CST and Sacrament of Body underpin an abolitionist stance the imperative to advocate for what is commonly known as the Nordic Model as outlined in French Legislation
We are speaking to Durham University, a potential researcher and an interested funder

Networking and Partnerships:
• SPACE International – joint work around UK Prostitution legislation. Created platform for 2 joint events at CSW61 legal settlements around prostitution.
• ARISE FOUNDATION – initial grants given out and currently developing 5 year strategic plan.
• Coalition for the Abolition of Prostitution - CAP International – we attended the “The Last Girl”: international conference and workshops in New Delhi, India, 29 January - 1 February 2017. I was elected onto the International Board. We were ivolved with them in presenting at number of events around the French Legislation and Prostitution. We coordinated the first abolitionist briefing on the first day CSW61 – over 65 abolitionist activists attended. It enabled us to coordinate our efforts and we will now establish it as an annual event.
• ANDANTE/RENATE Conference – Albania May 2017 – as international rep for National Board of Catholic Women (NBCW) took part in and presented at conference also used opportunity to develop further partnerships with Romanian and Albanian delivery partners,
• European Women’s Lobby (EWL) – Continue to support their campaign for a Europe Free from Prostitution.
• EUROPEAN FREEDOM NETWORK (EFN) – faith based alliance – primarily Evangelical – linking grassroots trafficking services across Europe – useful for referrals – providing consultancy support to enable them to build capacity around advocacy particularly in relation to prostitution/sexual exploitation – will attend their bi-annual Bridge Conference in Berlin in October.
• Finnish Government – visit to w@w as part of consultation in the development the reception services for trafficked women at Finnish asylum system and developing training for social workers
• UK NGO CSW Alliance – worked in preparation for and throughout CSW61 as part of liaisons group with UK government.
• Polaris – meetings regarding development of UK Help Line
• Human Trafficking Foundation – we continue to engage with this network as is the most comprehensive pan UK network for organisations engaged in anti-trafficking work.
• Holy See – spoke for Holy CSW61 in event “Economically empowering trafficking survivors to stay permanently off the streets”

Advocacy:
• We continue to contribute to and engage in local, national and international debate, research and policy development; challenging the demand for the sexual exploitation of women and promote effective exiting services.
• Engaged in UPR/CEDAW Shadow reporting processes
• Coalition for the Abolition of the Sex Trade – is being established within the UK – w@w is providing the secretariat
• In the midst of election process here in UK, legal settlement around prostitution is even more confused. We will continue to work with the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution. We will also approach all new MP’s and offer to meet and inform around French Legislation.

Future Events:
June - MALTA – Speaking on the Nordic Model for the Holy See at a conference “Sharing Models And Best Practices To End Modern Slavery And Restore Dignity To Its Victims” hosted by the President of Malta as part of his presidency of EU
September/October – We will attend all of the Party Conferences to provide side events related to Nordic Model and Prostitution
November – ROME - Speaking at a conference hosted by "Assisting Victims of Human Trafficking: Best Practices in Resettlement, Legal Aid and Compensation" in Vatican hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS) and the Global Alliance for Legal Aid (GALA)
November – Trust London Conference – l attend again this year
November/December – Parliamentary Conference – is being planned with SPACE International and CAP focussed on French Legislation

-Lynda Dearlove rsm - Founder & CEO Women@theWell